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Launch angles — May 1, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees
Not this time, Didi.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB season lasts half the year, and it can be hard for the average fan to keep up. That’s where we come in. Every day during the 2017 regular season, Beyond the Box Score will be recapping all the biggest action from the previous day — with a sabermetric slant, of course — and looking ahead to what today will bring.

Yesterday’s biggest play

Didi Gregorius gives the Yankees another comeback — +.462 WPA

GIF via MLB.com

On a day when Proven Closers Mark Melancon and Alex Colome blew saves that led to losses for their respective clubs, the worst implosion came (a) from a no-name pitcher (b) in a game his team eventually won. The baseball gods work in mysterious ways.

Of course, this wasn’t really Donnie Hart’s blown save (the save rule also works in mysterious ways). After Darren O’Day walked the bases loaded with two outs, he entered the game to face Gregorius. Hart’s been money against lefties in his career, and Gregorius has a 77 wRC+ off southpaws, so it seemed like a prudent move. Alas, Hart worked the count to 2-1 and tried to sneak a sinker by Gregorius:

Image via Brooks Baseball

For the second time in three days, the Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the ninth. On Friday, Brad Brach gave up the home run to Starlin Castro, and Matt Holliday walked it off in the 10th. Yesterday, Gregorius was the hero for the Bombers… except he wasn’t, because two innings later, Bryan Mitchell imploded — also for the second time in three days — and the Orioles won 7-4. (The moral of the story: Baseball gods? ~ Mysterious ~ .)

Yesterday’s best game score

Dallas Keuchel — 84

Game Score was developed by Bill James as a quick way to evaluate a starting pitcher’s performance. The score begins at 50, with points added for outs and strikeouts, and subtracted for walks, hits, and runs. A score of 70 is very good; a score of 90 is outstanding.

Keuchel has taken the hill six times this season. He’s gone at least seven innings and given up at most two runs in all those starts. In fairness, he’s stranded 98.7 percent of his baserunners, and his 3.35 FIP casts some doubt on his 1.21 ERA. Still, keeping runs off the board counts for something — especially when awards season comes around.

And it’s not like Keuchel got lucky on Sunday. He allowed just three hits and two walks over 7 13 innings against the Athletics, piling up nine strikeouts along the way. The sinker was working, as is typically the case, but the slower pitches made the difference. Keuchel tended to avoid the zone with his changeup and slider:

Image via Baseball Savant

Keuchel’s gone with the Brad Ziegler approach this year — i.e., he’s hardly ever thrown the ball in the strike zone — and thus far, the results have been impressive. Of his combined 38 changeups and sliders, 11 went for swinging strikes. Both pitches travel at about 79 mph, but the former breaks arm side, while the latter moves glove side. Together, they can retire batters of any handedness. With his sinker regaining the whiffs it lost last year, and his change/slider combo keeping hitters guessing, Keuchel should keep rolling past Oakland.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Todd Frazier — 441 feet

GIF via MLB.com

You know that scene in Bull Durham where Crash Davis tells the hitter Nuke’s about to throw a fastball, and he squares it up and hits the bull in right field, earning a free steak dinner? While I don’t think Alex Avila tipped him off, I’d imagine Frazier had a similar thought process as he stood at the plate. If I can smash this pitch deep enough to center, I’ll hit the truck and win a free Chevy!

I mean, how else can you explain this demeanor?

GIF via MLB.com

Frazier’s not exactly Yasiel Puig, but you’d expect some more celebration after a shot this massive. Had he waited a fraction of a second — and, you know, hit the ball about 60 feet further — that Silverado would’ve been his. Sadly, he came up short, so he’ll have to settle for a huge dinger in a blowout loss (say, maybe that has something to do with it).

For Jordan Zimmermann, this was par for the course. The Tigers’ $110 million man has seen his velocity decline continuously over the last few years, which — along with fraying command — has made him much more hittable. Thus, when he tried to come at Frazier with some 92-mph heat, it didn’t have the desired effect. Maybe Avila was feeling a little spiteful, wanting to give a favor to his former team, or maybe Zimmermann’s a washed-up 30-year-old who gives up a ton of home runs. Some things, we’ll never know.

SABRy tidbits

  • Michael Pineda’s always been the stereotypical flamethrower, who has great stuff but can’t hit his spots. This year, though, he’s had a sensational start, and improved command might be behind it. Pinstripe Alley’s Tyler Norton looks at Pineda’s zone profile and likes what he sees.
  • Kevin Siegrist had a nice run in the Cardinals bullpen, serving as the LOOGY on a few playoff teams. Then came 2017, in which he’s put up the worst adjusted FIP in the NL. With Brett Cecil in the fold, St. Louis doesn’t need to keep Siegrist around, argues Viva El Birdos’s Ben Markham.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Clayton Kershaw (2.29 projected ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (3.42 projected ERA)

Neither of these pitchers has met expectations this year, albeit to vastly different extents. Before the season, FanGraphs projected Cueto to have a 3.23 ERA; as he’s put up a 5.10 ERA and FIP through six starts, that number has risen steadily. Kershaw has had one real hiccup, but it was a nasty one — he gave up four runs on three home runs in Coors Field. It was the third time in his career he allowed three long balls. His ERA is now “only” 2.29, his worst since 2012.

This game looks like a pitchers’ duel for two reasons (well, three, if you count the projections). The two hurlers have dominated against each other’s teams — Cueto has a 2.86 career ERA against the Dodgers, while Kershaw has held the Giants down to a 1.60 ERA. And both clubs have scuffled on offense as of late. In the first series between these teams, they scored a combined 19 runs in four games; this set could be more of the same.


Ryan Romano is the co-managing editor for Beyond the Box Score. He also writes about the Orioles for Camden Depot, sometimes. Follow him on Twitter if you enjoy angry tweets about Maryland sports.